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Jumping from HDD to SSD: A cost-effective experiment

16 Dec 2013

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Neither SuperDuper! nor Carbon Copy Cloner could be used, however, to clone the NTFS/Windows partition. Internet research suggested that I might be able boot Clonezilla off a USB flash drive and use it to clone both partitions at once. However, particularly given that I'd already successfully mirrored the HFS+/Mac OS partition, I decided to go a more conventional (translation: more likely to first-time succeed) route. I used Twocanoes Software's Winclone (which I previously covered back in March of 2008) to back up the NTFS partition to a USB flash drive. I then swapped out the HDD for the SSD successor, booted Mac OS from the SSD, created a sufficient-sized FAT partition in Disc Utility, and restored the NTFS partition to it.

The first time I attempted the restore, Winclone hung. Internet research revealed that I needed to make the destination partition slightly larger than the original (250GB). I went with 255GB and the restoration succeeded without further hiccups (Winclone also offers facilities to optionally shrink the source Windows image). Natively booting into Windows initially produced a bit of consternation when my attempts to use the laptop's built-in keyboard and trackpad produced no results. As it turns out, this is a known issue related to Apple's Boot Camp drivers ... tricks to forcibly resurrect these peripherals exist, but fortunately all that I needed to do was patiently wait a few minutes and they re-emerged of their own accord.

I needed to re-activate both Windows 7 and Office 2010; both operations went smoothly and were done online in a matter of a few seconds. Back in Mac OS, I deleted the old virtual machine definition (just to be safe...this might not have actually been necessary) and created a new one pointing at the now-SSD-housed Windows 7 build, a process which also went smoothly. As was the case with my Mac mini, Dropbox and a few other apps required Mac OS re-activation due to the mass storage migration, which wasn't a hassle at all. And now that I was using a SSD, I installed Trim Enabler in order to ensure that the operating system would optimally manage the "unofficial" storage device.

That was it; the system is functioning just fine. And best of all, as forecasted, it's running much faster, too.

My girlfriend rarely reboots either operating system, instead just putting them to sleep in-between computer usage sessions. But even so, she still notices the much speedier SSD, both (in general) in terms of the system's overall improved responsiveness and (specifically) thanks to the far fewer (and shorter-duration, when they appear) Spinning Beach Balls she now encounters.

Was a roughly $300 upgrade, encompassing both hardware and software, worth it? I'd certainly say so, considering that it'll substantially postpone the necessity to purchase a much more expensive newer computer. Reiterating what I wrote more than a year ago:

Swapping out the HDD for a SSD makes a several-year-old system feel like a close approximation of a brand new laptop. It's hard to explain, until you've personally experienced it, how incredible it is to have a system completely boot in just a few seconds, a fraction of the delay previously experienced. Application load latencies are similarly speedy. In these fiscally challenging times of lingering economic uncertainty, a mass storage sub-system upgrade is certainly a compelling alternative to a full-system replacement.

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